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Choosing to become a teacher is a fantastic decision, offering a challenging and fulfilling career. However, recent figures published by the Department for Education (DfE) show that the government has failed to reach its recruitment targets for secondary school teachers for the seventh consecutive year, despite the face that teachers are in demand. What does this teacher shortage mean for the profession?

The DfE is responsible for education and children’s services in England, including teaching in the UK. Each year it publishes official statistics on the number of new entrants starting, and those expecting to start, Initial Teacher Training (ITT).

For 2019/2020, there were 29,580 new entrants to postgraduate ITT courses, a small 1% increase compared to 2018/2019 figures, and recruitment exceeded the teacher supply model targets for biology, history, geography and english. However, while there were 365 more postgraduate trainees in 2019/2020 compared to 2018/2019, the government struggled to meet its own rising targets, which increased by 864 in the same period.

Targets were not met for primary and secondary teachers. The figures for 2019/2020 reveal particularly low rates in recruiting trainee teachers in chemistry, computing, maths, modern foreign languages and physics. Physics was hit hardest, only reaching 43% of the 2019 target; even lower than the 47% achieved in 2018.

What does the shortage mean?

It is not the first time that these subjects have been short of teachers. Many governments have struggled to compete with the high demand for these subjects in the wider workforce, resulting in fewer teachers with computing, maths and physics degrees.

In order to entice more people to get into teaching, last year the DfE raised starting salaries for new teachers in England. The announcement, which accompanied a statement about increased funding for state schools, said these starting salaries could rise to £30,000 within by the 2022-23 academic year.

The government is also looking to improve the status of the profession by ensuring the best and brightest teachers are employed. Highly qualified teachers from abroad are also being welcomed to the UK to fill the shortage and deliver quality teaching.

How can overseas trained teachers help?

It is important to attract top talent to the UK to address the shortage in all subjects and roles, including full-time, part-time, permanent and supply positions. Reed Education visits universities and teacher training schools across the UK in order to recruit teachers for primary, secondary, special educational needs (SEN) and further education.

Teachers who qualified in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America, or from the EEA, including Switzerland, are considered to be an overseas trained teacher. These teachers can apply for qualified teacher status (QTS) in the UK, without being required to undertake any further training or assessment.

For the third year running, Reed Education is operating Project Canada; where we encourage and recruit talented newly qualified teachers (NQTs) to become overseas trained teachers in the UK. The team are visiting nine Canadian universities in January and February, joined by expert staff - including headteachers - and offering a highly competitive benefits package. This is especially important for recruiting NQTs in subjects where teachers are in high demand, including STEM and modern foreign languages.

Being an overseas trained teacher in the UK can boost a teacher’s chance of future international employment. It also comes with the fantastic opportunity to work, travel and explore a new country.

Kessa Beddington, an overseas trained teacher who moved from Canada to the UK in 2019 and was supported by Reed Education, said:

“If you had asked me 11 months ago where I would be right now, I probably would have said teaching in Calgary. That was until I had a spur of the moment interview at my university career fair, and within a week my entire plan had changed… “From the time I had the phone call, to the time I got a job offer, it was less than 36 hours. Some days I'm still not convinced it’s real: it all seemed too convenient, too good to be true. It was true though, and here I am 10 months on, living outside London and working in a school that is everything I wanted out of my teaching degree.”

Reed's education specialists offer help to teachers in the UK and Canada with CV writing, finding jobs, running workshops and presentations, as well as sending a weekly newsletter with hot jobs and top tips. On top of this, the team offer exclusive teacher training and support for achieving QTS, with branches up and down the country.